Website of the Antique Airplane Association and the Airpower Museum Last Update: Aug 29 2018

Gone West - In Memoriam

This page commemorates members who have "Gone West", or passed on, in alphabetical order. Every year at the Blakesburg Fly-in there's a memorial service on Sunday at the Gone West Memorial on the grounds of the Airpower Museum.

Earl "Skeezix" Adkisson
Earl "Skeezix" Adkisson, an APM Director and a master mechanic, passed away on July 12, 2008. This obituary was written by Giles Henderson.

Earl was born on September 13, 1923 and grew up near Oblong, Illinois. Perhaps his most remarkable attribute was a lifelong, unrelenting commitment and passion for aviation that we can trace back to the 1920's. There is a picture on the wall of Earl's library of a little boy, perhaps 5 years old, wearing a leather flight helmet and goggles and a big grin. The little boy in this picture was Earl nearly 80 years ago shortly after Lindberg's solo Atlantic crossing.

After graduating from the Oblong High School, at the age of 19 he joined the US Army air corps. During the next three years Skeezix served as a mechanic overseas repairing and maintaining American and Allied bombers, transports and fighters in places like North Africa, Corsica, Sardinia and Italy.

Skeezix came home in 1945 and at the age of 22 years married his high school sweetheart, Wanda. Over the years Skeezix and Blondie raised four boys: Bill, Ron, Duke and Steve.

Skeezix acquired his FAA credentials at the University of Illinois Institute of Aviation during the years 1946 - 1948 including a Certified Flight Instructor's rating, a Commercial Pilot's License and Airframe and Engine Mechanic ratings. At the age of 29, Skeezix built a 1300-foot runway and used oil field pipe, sheet metal and his welding torch to build a hanger and shop and started his own business, the Tuscola Flying Service. 20 years later at, Earl moved his maintenance business to the Cooch Atwood airport in 1972.

In the 1950's, during the early days of EAA, he and Jerry designed and built a remarkable little experimental gull wing aircraft known as the headskinner. Those of us that knew Earl in the 60's remember his 1929 Warner powered Simplex Red Arrow. During the 70's and 80's he flew many airshow exhibitions from the Carolinas to Canada and all over the Midwest including Oshkosh in his homemade replica of the 1908 Demoiselle.

In 1966 the governor of Illinois presented the Aviation Mechanic of the Year Award to Skeezix and in 1996 he was the recipient of the FAA's Charles Taylor Master Mechanics award honoring his more than 50 years of service as an aircraft mechanic. One of the staff writers for the News Gazette interviewed Earl about the Taylor award. I would like to share the last paragraph that I believe gives the reader a sense of Earl's character. Earl was in his 70's at the time and the reporter had asked him if he still flew:

"Let's see" he said, "I haven't flown since yesterday." He also likes to get around on the ground with his wife Wanda. "We like to travel around, see the countryside," he said. "We've been to all 48 states. Sometimes we pull a trailer and just haul airplane parts around."

After a few minutes, the cantankerous Adkisson had had enough. He wanted to go back to work. "You know what all of this is going to do? People are going to want to come out here and stand around and talk and then I won't get any business done. I've got too much work to stand around and talk." End of interview.

Unlike many of us who have a focused interest in some particular area of aviation, Skeezix expressed an appreciation and enthusiasm for all of grass-root flying. We have watched him provide assistance, encouragement and express a sincere interest in a remarkable number of aviation areas including warbirds, aerobatic and racing aircraft, as well as ag-planes, aerial mapping aircraft, gyrocopters ultra-lights, powered parachutes, flying wings, automotive engine conversions and perhaps his greatest love, antique aircraft.

M.R. (Bob) Baas
September 19, 2008

Bob Baas

Our good friend Bob Baas died September 19, 2008, at Baylor Hospital, Grapevine, Texas. He was member #20 in the Antique Airplane Association and a member of the Texas Chapter. This is a big loss to the Antique Airplane Association.

I first met Bob in 1967 in Tulsa where he was a member of Tulsa Chapter #2 and flying for American Airlines. He and Joan later moved to the DFW area with AA and became a member of the Texas Chapter with his Piper J-5. A warm friendship developed between Bob, E.M. Johnson and me. Many times we talked, laughed and planned new things for the Chapter while pulling together the newsletter or publishing historic articles with photos to promote the Antique Airplane movement. Bob restored a C-170 and later a C-337.

The three of us made many trips to Oshkosh, Ottumwa, Blakesburg and many other fly-ins together. In later years Don Pellegreno gave us the title of "The Trinity." When Bob retired from American Airlines he had flown DC-7s, B-707s, B-727s and Douglas DC-10s. Bob will certainly be missed by his many friends and remembered for his contributions to the Antique Airplane Association.

-Joe Haynes

John Ryburn Bowden
February 19, 2011

It is with mixed emotions that I must report the passing of my father John Ryburn Bowden. He has made is final flight toward the heavens and will be missed by all who knew him. Missed for his kind spirit, his love of aviation, and for the way he generously shared that passion with others. Yet we are relieved that he will no longer suffer through his courageous battle with Alzheimer's disease and other illnesses.

Many aviation enthusiasts have fond memories of attending one of the annual fly-ins hosted by my Dad and Mom over a span of 14 years from the late 1970's through the early 1990's. Some of those years, there were two (2) fly-ins. Attended by folks from all over the United States, these events grew to include over a hundred planes and several hundred visitors and participants. This was Dad's way of contributing and sharing in the promotion of grassroots aviation, antique airplanes, and sport flying.

John Bowden

Don Carter

Les DeLine
Les DeLine of San Diego was a mainstay of the antique community. He passed away on June 27th, 2008. Here's a photo of him at Blakesburg 2006 with his Stinson SR9. Les is on the right.

Charles "Chuck" Doyle, Sr

Born: May 26, 1916, St. Louis Park, MN
Died: April 25, 2008, St. Cloud, MN

Chuck Doyle, Sr

Charles Peter "Chuck" Doyle was born to be a pilot and stuntman. Impressed with Charles Lindbergh's 1927 solo flight to Europe, Doyle talked his father into taking him to the Minneapolis Airport where he was given an air ride in a Navy trainer. In his teens, Doyle owned a Harley Davidson motorcycle and cut classes at Washburn High School to ride to the airport and hang out. In the summer after his junior year, he offered to trade the motorcycle for flying lessons, but instead was given work helping to rebuild airplanes. He soloed in an airplane that summer and borrowed money to purchase his own Travel Air biplane. During the 1933 fall homecoming football game at the high school, Doyle buzzed the field and was promptly dismissed from school. He would finally graduate from Washburn in a colorful 2002 ceremony!

At the airport, Doyle earned a living working on airplanes, selling tickets for barnstormers, and performing daredevil stunts. In 1935, Doyle made his first parachute jump at the Minnesota State Fair and towed his first aerial banner for Griffith Shoe Polish. He had learned the fine art of skywriting from local veterans and rigged his plane to fulfill local Pepsi Cola assignments. In addition to the flying, Doyle also began to take part in other thrill show events at fairs and celebrations across the country, performing such stunts as driving his motorcycle through burning board walls, head-on auto crashes, crashing airplanes through "houses" built within fairgrounds, as well as climbing from his speeding motorcycle to an airplane by means of a rope ladder hung from the airplane. He used his motorcycle and ramps to jump over cars long before Evel Knievel was born. Despite the spectacular lifestyle, Doyle was never injured.

During WWII, Doyle worked briefly for Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation in St. Paul, building gliders that were used by the Army to land troops behind enemy lines. In 1942, despite having no college education, he was hired by Northwest Airlines in January of 1942 after Pearl Harbor as a training instructor and taught at Rochester, Minnesota. When Northwest was contracted by the Army Air Transport Command, he was assigned to fly Northwest transports in Alaska, making flights as far out as the Aleutian Islands. Following the war, Doyle bought war surplus aircraft, flying, restoring and racing them at Reno NV. Many of his airplanes found their way into museums, including three in the Air Force Museum at Dayton, Ohio, and a Curtiss Pusher aircraft that hangs in the MSP Airport's Lindbergh terminal. Doyle's airline career with Northwest continued until his retirement at age 60 in 1976 after 34 years, but his flying career wasn't over. From his home airstrip in Apple Valley, Doyle continued to sky-write and tow banners. The airstrip's signboard heralded "UFOs Welcome." He owned and flew dozens of aircraft and had his hand in many Minnesota aviation projects, including the publishing of a Minnesota aviation history book. When the City of Apple Valley condemned his property for highway right-of-way, Doyle moved his planes to Fleming Field South St. Paul MN. He knew everybody in aviation and lived flying and restoring airplanes every day of his life. Both Chuck Jr. and Brian were taught to learn to fly by their father and are pilots and continue the family's tradition for the love of aviation. Shannon would fly only with her Father but respects there love for flying.

In 1992 Doyle was inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame. 1996 OX-5 Hall of Fame. 2003 Warbird Hall of Fame. Member and supporter of many other fine aviation organizations. Survived by two sons one daughter and four grandchildren.

Joseph Fichera

Photo by Eric Long

Joseph Fichera, 92, a 30-year resident of Stevensville, MD died on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 of natural causes. Joe served in the United States Air Force during WWII and the Korean War. He was a member of the Antique Airplane Association and a founding member of its local chapter, the Potomac Antique Aero Squadron. He was also a member of the Quiet Birdmen and the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum.

Joe retired from the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum as a museum specialist and shop foreman at the Silver Hill/Paul E. Garber Facility from 1969 to 1984. He supervised the restoration of aircraft for the opening of the National Air and Space Museum in 1976.

He returned to the Garber Facility in 1995 to lead a volunteer team in the restoration of Betty's Skelton's Pitts S-1C Little Stinker and the Curtiss-Wright CW-1 Junior, both of which are now at the Udvar-Hazy Center.

Joe's technical skills and knowledge of antique and classic aircraft were recognized by the FAA in 2002 when he received the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award. He could be found each year at the Potomac Antique Aircraft Association Fly-In at Horn Point, MD and the Antique Aircraft Association Fly-In at Blakesburg, IA, among others.

Joe recently completed the restoration of a Brunner Winkle Bird owned by Charles Lindbergh - the plane in which Charles taught his wife Anne to fly.

Joseph is survived by his wife, Anna Fichera, whom he married on January 28, 1956, son, daughter, and granddaughter.

Marion H. "Curly" Havelaar

Best known as "Curly", Marion was an early and long time member of the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Antique Airplane Association. He was a member of local EAA Chapter 34 and member of the Texas Chapter, AAA. Curly was a storehouse of knowledge related to airplanes and a fine, self taught, machinist. Curly would never pass up the chance to help anyone with an aviation project. He was also a very devoted family man.

Marion H."Curly" Havelaar, 86, LT.Colonel, U.S.A.F. Retired, passed away July 26, 2010 after a long battle with cancer. He passed peacefully at his home in Arlington, Texas surrounded by his wife Patsy and close family members. Marion and Patsy were married 66 years ago in Ardmore, Oklahoma while Marion was in training before being deployed to fly combat missions for the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII.

Marion was born on July 29, 1923 on a rural farm near Inwood, Iowa; the second son of an immigrant family, Dick and Gertrude Havelaar, who farmed in western Iowa and southeastern South Dakota.

His lifelong love and passion for aviation started when he saw his first airplane (a barnstormer) in a hay field near Hudson, South Dakota. In the early 1930's he received his first airplane ride in a Ford Tri-motor flown by the famous South Dakota barnstormer, Clyde Ice. Almost 50 years later, Marion had the privilege of giving Clyde Ice his last airplane ride in his restored award winning Waco during an air show in Spearfish, South Dakota.

Marion served in the U.S. Army Air Corp during WWII and later with the U.S. Air Force during the Korean Conflict and during the Vietnam War. He served his country for 29 years before retiring as a Lt. Colonel with the U.S. Air Force. His career was long and illustrious including assignments flying B-17 and B-29 combat missions in Europe during WWII and over Korea during the Korean Conflict. His career included assignments flying F-89 and F-101 fighter interceptors while with the Air Defense Command from the 1950's through the 1960's. Following his assignments with Air Defense Command, he served as a Staff Officer with the Airborne Command, Bossier City, Louisiana and with the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Command (CINCPAC) in Hawaii. His last active duty assignment was as a Unit Commander at Fairchild AFB, Spokane, Washington before retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1971.

After retiring, he and wife Patsy moved to Rapid City, South Dakota where he resided and pursued his hobby and lifelong passion of restoring and flying antique airplanes. His antique airplane accomplishments include the restoration of several historic airplanes resulting in receiving two coveted and revered Reserve Grand Champion awards at the EAA Air Venture Annual Convention and Fly-In. He was known internationally as "the expert" authority for the history and restoration of Antique Waco Airplanes. Marion also flew his historic, award winning antique Waco biplane in celebration of the South Dakota Centennial by replicating a historic statewide airmail flight culminating in a flyover of Mount Rushmore during the inauguration of Mount Rushmore by President George Bush. Marion is also remembered as a combat veteran, author, historian and expert on the famous U.S. Army Air Corps, 91st Bomb Group which gained fame during WWII and included such famous airplanes as "Memphis Belle" and "Shoo-Shoo Baby". He authored "The Ragged Irregulars of Bassingbourn" a history of the 91st Bomb Group, touted as the "best unit history" written about a WWII air combat unit.

Marion is survived by his wife Patsy Ruth Havelaar, Sons Thomas and Ronald, 2 Brothers, 4 Sisters 3 granddaughters, 2 great-grandsons and 2 great-granddaughters.

E.M. Johnson

E. M. Johnson, a founding member of the Texas Chapter Antique Airplane Association, died on May 1, 2011. He was 94 and had been an avid aviation enthusiast since he was a child. By 12 years of age he combined his love of aviation with that of photography which enabled him to amass a comprehensive collection of aviation history and photographs during his lifetime. His photos, from the start, showed a talent for composition that allowed him to depict his subject matter with a minimum of shots.

E. M. worked in the aviation industry his entire career, until his retirement from Bell Helicopter in 1982. As well as his founding membership in the Texas Chapter, he was the State Director for, and a Lifetime Member of the National Antique Airplane Association at Blakesburg, Iowa. He was also a member of the EAA, the American Aviation Historical Society and the Frontiers of Flight Museum, at Dallas Love Field.

Longtime members of the AAA will remember E. M. and Grace hosting the annual Christmas Party at their home for many years where guests could talk with E.M. about everything aviation and his other interests, which included steam locomotives and pipe organs. Guests enjoyed listening to the music played on the Wurlitzer Pipe Organ installed in their home.

He has "Gone West" to rejoin many of his family, friends and colleagues who have gone that way before. E.M. Johnson was the consummate and quiet gentleman who will continue to have a place in the hearts of all who knew him.

Dick Ramsey

Lee Koepke

1967 Earhart Commemorative Flight, Left to Right: Lee Koepke, Bill Polhemus, navigator, Ann Pellegreno, pilot, Bill Payne, copilot

Lee R. Koepke, 87, of Ypsilanti, Michigan, passed away on July 3, 2013. After serving in the Army Air Force during World War II, Lee pursued a career as a mechanic and I.A. Known for taking a derelict 1937 Lockheed 10 Electra destined to be used for firefighting practice at Willow Run Airport, he restored it for the 1967 Earhart Commemorative Flight. He went on the flight with pilot Ann Pellegreno, copilot William Payne, and navigator Bill Polhemus. The group successfully located Howland Island on the date, 30 years later, that Earhart was to have landed there. Lee's Lockheed is in the National Transportation Museum of Canada, representing Trans Canada Airlines' first purchase of a modern airliner in October 1937.

Lee will be remembered by many mechanics who attended the Detroit Institute of Aeronautics that he founded in 1968 and operated until it was purchased by the Michigan Institute of Technology in 1990. Koepke retired as an aircraft mechanic from Republic Air Lines in 1980. As an aeronautical tribute, Lee leaves not only his work as a mechanic but hundreds of persons whom he taught, mentored, and helped, including his two sons, Jeff and Gary, who became aviation mechanics.

Bert E. Mahon

Bert Mahon was born in Caney, Kansas on March 13, 1937 and left this earthbound realm on April 16, 2009 to join the formation of those flyers that have gone before him. During his lifetime of 72 years, Bert served in the Marine Corps, worked for Standard Oil, the Western Company and Ensearch Exploration before owning his own mortgage business in Denton, Texas for several years. He was also a Ground School Instructor for American Airlines. A private pilot for more than forty years, Bert was Lifetime Member #67 of the Antique Airplane Association. He also had taken up another passion in later years, that of riding a motorcycle and taking trips with his faithful dog Cady.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Mahon; his Daughter, Tracey Elliot and husband Ken of Lafayette, LA; his son, Kelly Mahon and wife Riana of Deer Park, Washington; and four grandchildren, Will, Mary, Curtis and Ryan.

On Saturday April 25, 2009, over 200 friends and relatives gathered at the Mahon hangar at Denton Airport to commemorate his life and wish him fair winds and blue skies for this next leg of his journey.

-Dick Ramsey

Ernest "Pinky" Opp

Born: November 9, 1924, Good Hope, IL
Died: September 4, 2009, St. Cloud, MN

Ernest "Pinky" Opp, 84, passed away at his home with his family by his side. He was raised in Bushnell, IL, and he married Doris (Goddard) Opp on Dec. 26, 1948, in Macomb, IL. They celebrated 58 years together.

Pinky attended the University of Illinois and was a graduate of Western Illinois University in 1949. He was a submariner in World War II. He taught in Havana and Bethalto school districts, Lewis and Clark and Belleville area colleges and the St. Louis Regional Airport. He gave the freedom of flight to thousands in the metro area through his student plane rides, flight instructions and his aerobatic shows. Pinky did airshows in everything from a Mooney Mite to a T-6. At Antique Airfield he used to put on airshows in the 1970s and Pinky would snap the T-6 on takeoff while the gear was still coming up.

He gave the joy of music and history to thousands more though his band and choral performances with the CM Band and Chorus and the Old Timers. Pinky is survived by his four children and their spouses, 11 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. We will remember him for his poetic singing of "Smile and the World Smiles with You."

Nick Pocock

Nicholas Guy Pocock, 75, of China Spring, Texas, passed away Sunday November 29, 2009, at his residence. Nick was member # 280 of the National Antique Airplane Association and a long time Texas Chapter member.

Nick was born June 15, 1934 in London, England. He served in Great Britain's Royal Air Force. He was Britain's top aerobatic pilot in 1962-1963, winner of the Pearl Hyde Trophy. In September of 1963, he came to Texas to fly an air show with Waco aerobat Frank Price, whom he had met at the World Aerobatics in Hungary. He married Alvena Prause Trull on Dec.7, 1963 in China Spring. He was injured in 1964 while flying for Delta Cropdusting. He was an Engineer for Certainteed Products in Hillsboro, Texas for 16 years. Then he was an engineering professor at T.S.T.C. for 20 years, retiring in 2005. Nick also wrote two books, "Grumman/Schweizer AG-CAT" and "Did W.D. Custead Fly First" and wrote in several magazines both here and abroad. He was a member of Institute of Mechanical Engineers-Great Britain, Antique Airplane Association, Experimental Aircraft Association-Waco Chapter 59, OX-5 Aero Club, Tigers Club-England and U.S. He attended and participated in air shows worldwide.

He was a true Aviator in every sense of the word. A humble and mannered gentleman in every respect, he will be missed greatly by those who knew him.

-Dick Ramsey

Patrick Reetz

We lost another long time and valued member of the Texas Chapter with the passing of Patrick Reetz at age 49. He lost his battle with cancer in September 2008 leaving behind his loving Wife Joetta and Daughters Schylene and Alexandria who shared his love for aviation, antique airplanes and are always welcome attendees at our Chapter meetings. He was a lifetime member of the National Antique Airplane Association before he joined the Texas Chapter.

Patrick had a long time association with flying, having soloed at age 16. He flight instructed while attending Southeastern Oklahoma State University where he received a master in Aviation Management. After college he flew a Jetstar - 8 for one of the Saudi Royal Princes for a year before returning to the States to marry Joetta. He continued his flying career as an airline pilot for Continental, and corporate pilot flying a Learjet for MidWestern Trucking and a Conquest for WardKraft in Ft. Scott, KS.

-Dick Ramsey

Jess Shryack

Many an otherwise dry eye misted up and trying to say anything became impossible when the tight four airplane formation flew down the runway at Flying S Farm at Justin, Texas, and suddenly one of them climbed and turned west into the declining sun, leaving the rest to go on without him.

January 17, 2009 started like any other Saturday but by mid-day you could see that it was really going to be quite extraordinary. The large old metal aircraft hangar, too long sitting empty, started to come to life. Soon, where there was nothing, over two hundred faithful aviators, antique car fans, family and friends gathered together in solemn communion to bid a fond farewell to a Consummate Aviator. Some remembered a Husband, Brother, Father or Uncle. Others remembered not just a Teacher but a Mentor of Things Aviation, yes, and of a way to live life. Many of the stories told that day we knew to be true, because they also happened to each of us.

August 15, 1921 to January 9, 2009, a span of 87 years was filled with a passion for Life and in particular, Aviation. From the early days of World War II, through the Korean Conflict and on into the current era, Jess shared his love for airplanes, flying, old cars and life with anyone and everyone he came in contact with. He had a rewarding career flying for American Airlines and after he had retired, went back to teach in the Flight Academy there. Many of the current and former Airline Pilots and Military Pilots, both Domestic and Foreign and even a well known Actor and fellow lover of aviation came to know and love him. Many of the rest of us either learned how to fly, or how to fly better under his tutelage. Jess had a way of instructing that came natural to him, but could only hope to be achieved by others. It endeared him to all. His will be an act that will be very difficult to follow, unless we recall not only what but how he taught us.

But now that old hangar is empty, except for wonderful memories, because the Aviator has "Gone West" and left the rest of us to go on without him. Perhaps at times we will feel his steadying influence when things aviation aren't going exactly right and our flight path needs correction. And just as often we may hear that maniacal laugh, because we are still bound to Earth and Jess has gone flying.

It was "Another Day in Aviation."

-Dick Ramsey

Thomas William (Bill) Tinkler

Bill Tinkler, 84, died October 27, 2012 at Adam's Place Rehabilitation Center in Murfreesboro, TN. A resident of Annapolis, MD for thirty years, he has lived in Tullahoma, TN for the last six years.

He was a native of St. Francisville, Louisiana and worked on a tug boat on the Mississippi River before joining the Army Air Corps during WWII. His love for aviation was evident from his early years, learning to fly from a Women's Army Service Pilot (WASP) at the age of 16 and going on to have a successful career with United Air Lines. He was the recipient of the Wright Brothers' Master Pilot Award for 50 years of accident free flying. While in his forties, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. However through perseverance and positive attitude, he continued to fly with United Air Lines, the first commercial pilot with an MS diagnosis. He retired from United in 1982, but continued to fly privately in his own aircraft for many years afterward.

As an Aviation Historian he volunteered for many years at the Air and Space Museum and retired from there as Docent Emeritus. He also remained loyal to the Antique Airplane Association and volunteered there, attending every fly in since its inception.

Dennis Trone
Dennis Trone was killed flying his Dormoy Bathtub on May 5th, 2008, at his home field of Brodhead Airport. Dennis was well known for his OX powered aircraft.

Ted Davis' New Standard D-25, with dedication to Denny.